Can My Special Needs Grandson Trick-Or-Treat?

Dear Mamas On Call,

I have a wonderful, beautiful five-year-old grandson who has cerebral palsy. He is adamant that this year he wants to go trick-or-treating. My daughter (his mother) is nervous about this and also worried about how to make a costume for him. I think he should do all the things he wants to do (that are possible for him) that are age-appropriate. How can I help them?? We live close-by and I am available.


Dear Lois,

It sure sounds like you have a very special little guy in your life! Congratulations on being a grandma. How wonderful that you are close and can spend lots of time with them. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what a blessing that is for everyone.

As far as trick-or-treating goes, I’m with you. If he wants to, and his (or your) neighborhood can accomodate a wheelchair, why not? I completely agree that this little dude should be out there with the rest of them doing the Halloween thing if his health and physical condition allow it. After all, you’re only a kid once!

But I can also understand your daughter’s concern. She may be worried about the logistics of managing it all. Or, she may feel overwhelmed by the thought of coming up with a reasonable costume. Or, that some unkind remarks may come his way from kids who are less-than-sensitive. Or, maybe she just isn’t into the whole Halloween thing in general. Hard to say. Trick-or-treating with a child in a wheelchair will definitely take a little more organization and planning but that shouldn’t be a reason to avoid it. After all, he will have his family there to help him get around and to deal with any issues that come up.

As for the costume, there are so many fabulous ideas out there. He can incorporate the chair into the costume itself if he likes. One way that you can help is to suggest ideas for the costume and help gather materials and put it together. There are several websites that can give you ideas to share with your daughter first, and then later, once you get the go ahead from her, with your grandson (see below).

Some of the more clever ones I have seen include turning the wheelchair into an ice cream truck, a bumble bee, a Bat Mobile, and a chef’s kitchen but the list is endless. And they do not all require you to be a licensed contractor in order to pull them off!

So why don’t you sit down with your daughter and have an honest heart-to-heart talk with her? Encourage her to share her thoughts and feelings about the situation, out-of-earshot from your grandson.

Listen carefully, without judgement, to what she has to say and do what you can to quell her fears. Offer your assistance and make suggestions about how you guys might make the magic happen for your grandson.

At the end of the day, the decision is hers and you must respect it, even if you disagree. But you can definitely do your part to support her emotionally, offer your help, and hope for the best.

Good luck and Happy Haunting to you and your family!

Take a look here for lots of pictures and ideas.

And here’s yet another site with even more ideas.


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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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